creativity

Art and Design

The Creative Recipe


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I am currently doing work on a project about creativity.  The work is not intended to be about creativity in the arts but creativity in general, to help make it accessible to anyone who wants to know how to boost their own creative potential.  I am beginning by asking my friends and colleagues, and you, what your own personal observations are about what sparks your creativity.  While I do not have questions that I am asking, I hope that by keeping it open, I will not influence anyone’s reply. Sometimes when we ask leading questions, we can limit the information that we wind up getting.  So anything that you observe about creativity is welcome and if you do need a question to spark your response it would be:  what does it for you?  What things serve to spark your creativity?  Is it something inward or outward?  What things serve to get you in a creative mood?  Do you observe  certain things that you do to get into a creative mood or space?

This information will serve to form one part of the foundation of this work (I assume at this early stage).  Comments and contributions, if used, will be used with permission and attribution unless you want your observation to remain anonymous.  So if talking about your own creative process is something that interests you, I would love to hear from you!  You can simply make a comment connected to this post or you can email me directly at parker@staffordartglass.com.  Any and all observations are greatly appreciated!

Also a  form is included for those who want to add their thoughts but do not want them to show up in the comments section.  This will come to me via email.

 

~Parker Stafford

 

Art and Design, spirituality

Creativity Made Simple


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I will be the first to admit that I am not always someone who can sum things up simply and quickly for my readers.  Instead of writing in broad sweeps, I often get caught in detail.  Today, I am going to attempt to keep it simple.   So let me know how you think it goes!

One of the things that I have observed as an educator is that we don’t teach students how to be creative.  We have not done this because we do not understand it enough to be able to teach to the subject.  This is beginning to change, however, and it is a good sign and bodes well for us as creative thinkers.   I am going to share with you what I believe are the core issues that are related to being creative.

Create The Right Environment

This is crucial to good creativity.  I firmly believe that many people need to create a safe space within which to let their creativity flow.  What is so interesting is that sometimes this safe space can be in the middle of a lot of activity.  It is often said that there is anonymity in numbers.  Sometimes you can be around people while also being alone.  Sitting in a coffee shop or in a subway station, you can sometimes feel safe and alone in the ubiquity of the herd.  Sometimes, though, people may need to be alone, really alone.  This can be your bedroom, or a special place in your home where you have everything you need in order to think.  The truth is, the safe place for being creative is more in your head.  Find the match for that and you have a big piece of the puzzle. Discover your comfort zone.

Surrender

In play as in being creative, we have to give ourselves to the moment.  If you have ever remember being a child slipping into the world of play, you know just what I am talking about.  This is in truth one of the simplest and most basic of states of being.  It is funny, too, because we are also the most self-conscious about it.  A child, when watched by its parents when at play, will lose its surrender become self-conscious, and will lose, almost instantly, the creative impulse that is found in play.  Remember what I said about finding your safe place?  This is why.  You need a way to surrender to the creative impulse, to loosen up and allow the flow to come.   This is something you allow.

When inspiration comes, don’t rationalize the process.  Tap that flow, I say.  You can always go back and revise writing for grammar or re-work a sketch so it fits into a frame or hangs on a wall.  A song can have all the main elements right out of the chute with a few remaining things to clean up or rearrange.  Don’t let the craft get in the way of why you are here; play!  You can always clean things up later!

The act of surrender is a suspension of expectation. This is why many artists will often say they begin to create without a firm idea of where they want to go.  There is a very good reason for this that has more to do with the function of the right brain instead of the linear goal-oriented left brain, but I promised to keep this all short and to the point, didn’t I?  We do not find creativity, it finds us.  We allow, we surrender.  We become available.  We do not pursue, it pursues us.  Having said this, there are all sorts of combinations possible in this basic impulse.  Some create very rational and even stiff controlled work while some are more fluid.  These are more related to outcomes and what you choose, later, to control.  These are all a matter of choice; do you like writing jazz or do you like writing classical?

Surrender is a simple thing.  Its source-point is found in being willing and able to just play.  When you do, you are working with the very forces within you that are the leading edge, if not the very experience of inspiration itself.  An aperture within you opens, you feel wonderful, and something just flows.  The more you attend to it, and the less you seek to control it or tamp it down with fear or any form of uncertainty or feeling of propriety, the more it reveals itself to you.  By learning to cultivate this in your life you can be more creative.  The great thing about this is that you do not have to be an artist.  You only need to be a human being!

Art and Design, spirituality

The Creative Promise


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istockphoto-heart-in-sky-722x1024For years I have been interested in the nature of creativity.  Being an artist, I felt it was important to understand as much about it as possible so that I could be as effective in my creative life as I could be, to learn how to harness this facet of our being most effectively.  It was this curiosity that led me to observe my own state of mind while being creative.  This led me to observe how each hemisphere in the brain worked in tandem to help bring about the elusive state of inspiration.  I observed what states seemed to aid the most in being creative.  I found out about all kinds of tricks for getting your whole brain in on the act.  All of this was useful, but there seemed to be something still deeper, more fundamental in all of this.   After all, most artists I knew tended to treat inspiration as though it was some elusive force, not unlike sighting a Yeti.  We never were sure when we would see or encounter it, but we were always glad when we did!  While I know that such a comparison seems a little silly, it has a real kernel of truth.  We just don’t have a firm grasp on what this state of being is about.  If we did, we would live inside a constant state of inspiration.  But most of us don’t.  Most of the time, we are in this constant state of seeking the elusive Yeti.  I know because I am an artist.   I am also an educator, and the truly great opportunity I have been afforded in my teaching has been that of being able to observe my own students in their own process of seeking this elusive state.  There are a lot of ways that we can help make it more possible for us to find this state of mind and artists know a lot of them because we are all on the same hunt.  But what is so interesting is that when you look deeper into this you can see how some of us don’t have a problem with being inspired.  When you read the words of many famous artists they often speak of how the most natural artists are children.  Why is that?  It is simple.  It is the lack of fear.  Children have no reason to feel fear or apprehension in using this most natural state of being. They are not full of the things that trip them up or hang them up in various ways as regards the creative state. Both love and the creative require the suspension of fear in order for both to flow freely in our experience.

The one thing about fear is that it is the antithesis of love.  Love cannot exist very well within the bounds of the fearful.  It just can’t.  When we are afraid, our most natural of states get tangled, tied up.  Our brains shut down, our physiology also reflects this in subtle and overt ways.  But when we start talking about love, most people feel a little lost how it has anything to do with creativity. It shows.  We have in our lives chosen to cordon love off into very limited ranges of expression and experience.  Love, though, is more than just what we experience.  Admit it; when I mentioned love, you thought probably about how you feel about someone.  I know that I often do this same thing.  Love is how we feel FOR something.  But what if love is more than that, what if love itself is a far more expansive a thing that enters into every single corner of our experience in myriad ways?  Don’t we have a love of a hobby?  Don’t we have a love for the things that we value, even a ring or a piece of jewelry?  We say we love the bracelet we are wearing.  And yet, we stand back and admit to ourselves that that isn’t really love.  That is more like an intense like.  Right?  But I ask you, why cant it be love?  Why can’t the intensity of our like spill over into being love?  Why cant our own feelings, our own natural state of being, be allowed to feel and express this very powerful of states?  Maybe we think that by saying we love the bracelet we are wearing somehow makes us shallow, that we should reserve love for the more important things?  I take you back to our child of four who is sitting at the table, painting wildly, unafraid of creating bold and colorful marks.  She is caught up in her act of creating because it makes her feel great.  Is it possible that the mere act of creating is a form of love?  That we feel love when we do the things that connect us to ourselves?  And what does love do with others to whom we care the most about?  Doesn’t it do much the same thing?  Sure, making a mark on the page is not the same love that we feel when we are making a mark on someone’s heart.  That much is certain. But what if our experience of love has been so limited that it keeps us from following our instincts and keeps us from feeling free enough to open to this experience within ourselves?  Isn’t creating an act of self love?  Is it that we feel so unworthy of this most important part of love that we hesitate to show it to ourselves?

I have discovered that the act of being inspired carries with it all of the same characteristics that go with falling in love.  When we fall in love and when we fall into being inspired, the effects are the same.  I have observed that becoming inspired is itself a very intimate act.  As a result, we often tend to want to be alone. Sometimes, sitting in a coffee shop, we are surrounded by people as we madly scribble away, but in that moment, we have most often blocked out the din of voices and the movement of people so that we feel alone, solitary.  This is an intimate place.  We do not like people invading our space with their attention.  We need a special focus that involves letting ourselves go.  We fall into inspiration the same way that we fall into love.  In the same way we are seduced by our feelings of love, so too do we allow ourselves to fall into a seductive space of the senses when we create art of any kind. A child who is at play does not like it when he or she is being watched by adults.  How many of us have observed how a child’s play will come to a stop when they are aware that others are watching them?  This is because the act of play, which engages the imagination, is the same as the creative state.  The creative state is itself much like love, if not a broader expression of what love is in us. In all of the same situations, we need to be alone, we need to engage our imaginations, we allow ourselves to fall into it, and to do this we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  In both cases, it is the same.  We also need to feel unafraid in both cases, which most often means being alone, but also being in a place where we feel comfortable.  For some of my students (and myself), the best ideas come most often when they are doing something that makes them feel comfortable and safe enough to come out of their shells.  One student did her best creative work in the shower.  Another would take off to be alone, completely alone, without even paper or pencil.  She had to go for a walk, clear her head.  Another found that his ideas came when he was in the car driving for long periods.  Others like to be in a public place, but with their music playing in their earphones.  A number of them simply needed to be alone.  I have noticed that when I give a new assignment in Sculpture class a number of students ask me if they can leave so they can go find inspiration.  In the beginning I resisted this until I learned that many of them were getting better ideas when they were able to just follow their most natural inclinations.  One student would explain, “I just can’t force it, Mr. Stafford, I just have to go let it find me!”   The same is so with love.   Both are incredibly intimate acts sometimes.  Having said this, there are plenty of people who are not self conscious and who can create at the drop of a hat.  Some people actually feed off of the presence of people as though the extra attention is like more energy being brought into the arena. It is true we are all different, but there remains in my observation that on balance, most people approach inspiration in similar ways.

The act of creating is itself a freeing act.  We feel more expansive, and we feel that all is right with the world. We have a special lilt to our step. We are in grace.  All is well in the world, right?  Falling in love has all the same characteristics of this same state.  We have a lilt in our step, a glimmer in our eye.  Everything is golden.  But take that away, take the experience of the creative away, or the person whom we love, and everything becomes dark and shadowed.  Creativity, like love, frees us, allows us to move and become something….more.

I have found that most people like art but do not themselves feel creative.  They say that all they can do is draw stick figures.  And this is the crux of both love and the creative.  We shut down when we feel we are not good enough.  If we feel like we are not beautiful enough to another person, it shuts us down.  When we feel we are not talented enough, we do the same thing when trying to be creative.  In each case, walls are built of one sort or another.  This is not good, you see, because it stops the flow of this vital force that runs through our lives and makes it all the more richer.  I have taken this observation and applied it to my teaching.  I have found that the more I remove the hurdles to the creative and make people feel more safe, they become much more creative. They become more enthusiastic.  They feel supported, more free, less hindered by the “what if’s” in the world.   The people who have the hardest time with the creative are the ones who insist on worrying about something, such as how their work is going to turn out.  The difference between them and our child painting madly at the table is that the child does not worry about how it will turn out.  It is the suspension of outcomes that allows us to be fully present in the moment.  Love, like the creative, cannot be experienced through the past or the future, but only in the present. While we may look back wistfully at a past love or a past creative experience, it is never like what we experience in the moment.  You cannot create something in the past, only in the present.  But like creativity, love can strike terror in our hearts if we are afraid to allow ourselves to become vulnerable.  It is the same in both.

We have to learn to be fearless, we have to open to love the same way we open to the creative.  Both require the same state of being vulnerable and suspension of expectation in order for the experience to bloom in the most natural of ways.  This is why, so often, as an artist is painting or creating, they don’t always know exactly what is going to come next.  It isn’t that they don’t know how they want it turn turn out, or that they are being aimless in their work, it is that in order to do this certain parts of the mind really do have to be shut off.  Love, like the creative, is not a rational process.  It is nonlinear, irrational, and this is where we tap both sides of our brains and awareness.  Art like love cannot come about through a sheer force of will.  It is more like a flower that must open in the presence of the sun. We do not pry its petals open.  We let it open. We allow.  Without this quality, everything is forced.  80% of the ideas that my students come up with that are forced, they tend to abandon in the end for the simple fact that they have not truly plumbed their likes or desires.  The work, when forced, is never as enjoyable as the work that is allowed to flow.  When we flow, we are allowed deeper access into ourselves.  Love, like creating, is not entirely rational because we are not ourselves just rational beings.  Many artists, like those who fall into love, often revel in mystery.  It is the mystery that pulls them forward.  This is not rational, you see.

In my work in glass I have taken this idea and used glass as a vehicle for allowing people to tap the joy of being able to create something beautiful that they themselves believe they are incapable of doing.  Glass is a perfect material for this because it is….well…..beautiful.  I tell people who come into the studio feeling apprehensive about whether they will be able to make something beautiful that the nature of glass is such that you could dribble it on the floor and it would look amazing.  And it does.  I once told this to a group who came in this past winter and one of the kids wound up dribbling hot glass on the floor. At the time, she felt like she had failed, as though she was somehow doing something wrong.  I had, though, just moments before explained that you could do just what she had done and it would look great.  When she got done, she wound up picking up the pieces of glass, now hardened, off the floor and was amazed by how interesting it looked.  She took her “mistake” home with her, she liked it so much!  My experience with making things with a material that is so hard to get “wrong” has done something for people, which is that it opens the portals of enthusiasm and excitement.  They loosen up and are amazed at what it is they are creating.  THIS is where it all begins.  What might take a person years to achieve by learning how to go from stick figure to perfect portrait in chalk I can achieve in minutes. That is because the act of being creative is not about perfect portraits, but about loving what it is that you do.  When you do this, when you allow yourself the freedom to be this way, you naturally open up the cognitive portals in your own being so that inspiration flows.

The other side to all of this is that love naturally has a healing effect on us.  When we open up and allow ourselves to be loved, we feel different.  We unwind, we become more relaxed, happy, and at peace.  We do the exact same thing when we are in a state of inspiration.  This state encourages us to try the seeming impossible.  Suddenly the world resolves into radiant possibility.  We are enthused, we work harder, we lose track of time, we enter “the zone” in the same way that we enter a timeless zone when we are with people that we love.  How many of us have observed how quickly time seems to pass when we are with that someone whom we love?  Always, there is never enough time.  And the same is true for being creative.  Time quite literally changes. Some people even tell of how a moment seems to expand outward into a kind of eternity.  And yet, once we exit it, we feel as though time has suddenly accelerated and we wish we could enter that timeless space again. This is just what artists seek in inspiration.  More than having an idea in mind what they will make, they tend to be far more interested in how the state makes them feel.  They know that when they can just feel into it, they are golden.  It does not matter what they make because the moment allows for endless possibilities.  They know that anything is possible.  They are not worried what they will make because fear is no longer present.  They simply give themselves over to the moment.

The creative shares so much in common with love.  When we love, we create.  When we create, we are also in love.  It is the same.  Both frees us, both heals us.  This is perhaps why we use art as a form of therapy.  Just as love helps us to plumb our deepest feelings, so too does art help us plumb our feelings as well.  I think that our experience with the creative has simply become too limited sometimes and so doing, it tends to cordon off those parts of ourselves that we feel funny about expressing.  But all of this is a form of love, and love is something that is a pretty vast thing when it comes to human experience.  Love is more than something that we feel for something and it is something that we are.

Supporting Good Creative Habits

So how can you boost your creative love quotient?  There are a great number of brain tricks that you can employ that will help to kick start your right brain into motion.  One of these is using your left hand with a simple exercise, such as rolling a coin through all of your fingers without dropping it.  It is believed that by using the motor cortex in your right brain, which is used to control the left side of your body, that you are stimulating the right brain, which is most often seen as being involved in holistic reasoning, seeing, and most often artistic experience.

Find Your Zone

Find your comfort zone.  Does being alone help you to discover your inspired moment, or does being with people, but slightly aloof help?  Knowing what works best for you is a big first step towards how to boost your creativity.  Then once you have realized this, follow it.  For some, listening to music and just drawing and playing with ideas without any aim helps to get into a more creative state.

Expose Yourself

Sometimes just looking at art of all kinds can help you get ideas. The goal is not to copy artists work, but to find pieces that serve to inspire you.  Sometimes sites that have a lot of different art can be good ways to view a broad buffet of ideas.  For as crazy as it seems, Ebay can actually help a lot because instead of just one kind of art, you have a broad array.  Some sites you might find helpful are listed below

Design Observer  mostly graphic arts, but it has a broad range of objects dealing with good design that might just get your juices flowing.

ArtBabble is a cloud-based site for video and is called the youtube of the arts.

ArtNet is a site of over 450 artists, writers, sculptors, painters, animators, and hacker artists from around the world.

deviantart is a site where artists display and sell their works.  This is a broad range of two-dimensional work

thisiscollosal this is one of my personal favorites for the interesting and creative takes on the visual that it provides.  It is fun and engaging and well managed.

Artcylopedia  a list of links to museum collections of art through the ages. A rich source for everything historically art.

Blackbird an outreach program of Virginia Commonwealth University, this resource presents literary and artistic works by a broad range of emerging artists as well as established ones.

This is just a taste of what is out there and might help you when you are feeling a need to get inspired.  Sometimes just having someone elses work that maps out their own inspired moments can help get the gears turning.

Breathing 

Believe it or not, breathing has long played a central role in our feeling centered, balanced, and calm.  When someone is upset, what do we tell them to do to calm themselves down?  “Just breathe!” we say!  I would take it one step further and explain that if you take a little more time with breath work, you can discover how amazingly calming it can be.  for example, if you slow your breathing down and make it longer and deeper and do at least seven breaths in a row like this, counting seven seconds to breathe in, seven seconds to hold the breath and seven second to breathe out, you will develop a very nice slow rhythm to your breathing that will also signal to your mind that its time to relax.  You will notice that people who fall asleep do not have fast breath, but slow, even labored breathing.  If you can match your breathing to that same pace, you will find that your body is experiencing a very calm state where all the troubles you had a few minutes previously are suddenly gone!  One other breathing method I will share with you is one I often give to students who are really keyed up and it tends to work very well.  It is an alternating nostril form of breathing.  It forces you to slow down your breath, but I swear, it really can make you feel much better!  What you do is you hold one nostril closed while you make four full slow breaths in and out through one nostril only.  You then alternate to the other nostril and do the same four breaths and repeat this four times.  It is also helpful if you can focus on your breathing so you aren’t thinking about other things.

Music

The kind of music you listen to, the kind of rhythms and melodies can actually help support certain brain states.  Aboriginal cultures have long used certain rhythms to help induce certain states of reflection.  I have found that music that is rhythmic, and repetitive helps me to zone out into the creative while remaining tethered to the now.  It seems that when I can listen to music that is not telling me a story or that is engaging my verbal centers too much, it can lead me to move into the zone.  Different music will have different effects.  Sometimes, too, I need no music while at other times having something of the right style is just what the doctor ordered. I once created an entire body of work while listening to David Byrne’s  The Catherine Wheel.  For some reason, and for a set period of time, only this music “did it” for me.   I once knew an artist in graduate school whose studio was directly above my own, who listened to the same song over and over in order to do his work for his thesis show.  For him, it was Prince’s “I would Die For You.”  This seemed to get him into an energetic state and got his juices moving.  It had to, he listened to it for months for hours each session!  For as much as it sometimes annoyed me to hear this song on an infinite loop, I also “got” why it was he listened to it.  It was what got him into his own zone.  I used to listen to Thursday Afternoon by Brian Eno, which is a piece that is hardly even music, but a supportive soundscape that is reflective and great for drawing.  It is quite nearly background noise.  But sometimes, no music is the ticket, you just need to feel it out.

Reading

Honestly, I am putting this here only because it has helped me.  I don’t know if it will help you or not, but here is a try.  I have found very specific works by Walt Whitman to be incredibly  inspiring.  Leaves of Grass is sheer miracle.  He could turn a phrase in a timeless manner. Whitman is as alive today in my life as he was back during his own life.  Oddly, I find his other work about the civil war to be dreary stuff.  Whitman leaves me in a zone when I read the right stuff.  And who knows, maybe Whitman is like Prince was to my painter colleague who listened to the same song over and over.  But clearly, not just any writing will do it for me.  I need something that will push me over into realms of mystery, wonder, and even awe.

These are just a few sources for aiding in supporting your creative state.  In the end, though, you need to find what does it for you, observe how you feel when you do certain things and then make them part of a method that will work for you.

Art and Design, glassblowing

New Work


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Perfumer2
©Parker Stafford

If you are an artist then you know the importance of new work.  Developing new winning designs is a way to not only generate renewed interest in your brand, but it serves an integral effect of helping to keep you creatively vital.  I know that for me I get a big bump behind developing new work that helps to push production for a while.  I feel better.  Life just FEELS better to me and my mind is working in a much more fertile way as I wonder just what might be next on the creativity front.  Its as if the world moves from few options to one where options are just bursting at the seams.  Such is the effect that inspiration has on us.

The last four years have brought unprecedented change to my life.  From a severe shoulder injury, to a divorce, to managing an eight-entity partnership to being without a home and without income.  Being instantly disabled was no fun. The doctor explained I would not do anything except therapy with my shoulder for an entire year.   The combination of pain killers and discomfort and my inability to work was like a depth charge in my world.  It shook my confidence, it took me back to square one, and it also gave me a solid period of introspection into WHY I was doing what I was doing and caused me to step back and look—really look—at the who when where and why’s of all of this.. When the tree was shaken in this way I had to look long and hard and honestly at WHY I was motivated to do the things I was doing.  Why was I running a business in production glass?  It isn’t as simple an answer as you might at first expect.  Having a marriage break up during this time was itself a double-whammy and was made much more difficult by a spouse who sought to put children in the middle of it all while also limiting my exposure to them.  The economy was in the doldrums and I had few options available to me as I recovered just enough to wind up in another pot of soup.  And in the midst of all of this very terrible stuff was a center of clarity and purpose…..and even design.  I don’t believe in destiny.  I believe we create much of this.  A life can have a design that often escapes our notice but emerges in times when we allow ourselves to grow quiet.  If you step back and look at our culture and world as a whole, we really aren’t known as the species that quiets itself.  What we take as quieting the mind is akin to a brief distraction from the normal rush of inner dialog that goes along with our days.  You just never realize just how much you do it until you are suddenly without it.  Boom.  The sound goes off. The lights go out.  You are suddenly suspended within a deep blue buoyant ocean of a place.  What happens to you in places such as these?  In sensory deprivation tanks the mind is known to feed information out of itself for its own consumption just in order to keep the information loop it is so used to having supplied to it, going.  We never realize any of this until something comes along to put the brakes on things.  Its relative, so breaking the frame of reference just a little does a lot to begin to shift awareness, feeling, and being.

So, putting away the violins for a minute, I want to say that one of the few things that has helped me get through this period has been the ability to create.  During this time period I have had some of the biggest outputs of writing in my life.  I amassed a 700 page manuscript for a book, wrote several children’s stories and began developing new work and classes for my studio business.  I have written music, poetry, maintained up to three blogs and wrote an article for an online magazine on the subject of nonduality.  I was asked to teach at two colleges locally.  Now I teach at just one.  Part time and perfect.  It keeps me in the mix with young minds that want to be involved in new and different projects in a collaborative way, much as was done this past semester with my sculpture students in making blown glass sculptural forms for the Glass Garden project that I wrote about a few posts down the line.

Being able to have friends who serve as inspirational source-points can be incredibly important for turning the boat in your life around.  I know that for me, the creative was the one force that made the difference between madness and great joy.  It wasn’t a crutch; it was a means for changing how I thought, how I felt and how I reacted to the world around me.  A curious thing happens in the brain when we choose to feel differently; we do!  Our bodies stop pumping out things like adrenaline, which is a stress chemical and begins to pump out things like endorphins, dopamine, and other feel-good compounds.  The body is actually a loyal servant to our own minds and feelings and will most often mirror our thinking and feeling state as precisely as it can chemically. If you care to know just how fast this change can take place, observe as you allow your feelings to shift from one mood to the next. Our bodies can shift on a dime for us if we realize that it is we who control the boat and where its sailing!  Too often, though, we wind up being mastered by our feelings, and this can put people into quite dismal places indeed.  At the end of the day, though, until you understand that YOU are in control of all of this, even your own so very crazy emotions (that feel out of your control), you wont develop the sense of personal responsibility and self mastery that is necessary to have the confidence to take charge of your interior life and put it into a more positive direction.

Shell form 5 -b sizedSo art and creativity was a powerful way through all of this for me.  This was good, too, because I like simple and nondogmatic.  I happen to believe or feel that all of this here was not meant to be difficult but can actually be amazingly simple.  Like falling off a log.  Instead, though, we often set up barriers to our success.  I know I have.  Lots of them.  Why?  it all comes down to self love.  Not selfish narcisism, but rather a reverence for your own self as a gateway to worlds of wonder and boundless joy and love.  We tend to mess it up somehow, self-sabotaging most often.  Somewhere along the line we begin to feel that we aren’t good enough.  We are then on the lookout for any suggestion that we aren’t.  Our minds actually are on the lookout for ANYTHING that matches this pattern turning in our minds or hearts.  The thing about these patterns is that they are like plants; they will continue to self-propogate and can wind up getting worse.  You can also in that moment choose to go in the other direction and actively change the pattern into something different.  You can literally change your mind.  You can change how it operates, how it responds, how it chooses from a list of behaviors.  One of the most powerful ways to change these negative patterns is through creativity.  By being creative, you are granting yourself permission to be happy and to enjoy what it is you are doing as well as to begin to consider not just new ideas but also allowing yourself to enjoy something that you may have felt edgy or uncertain about (because maybe you felt like you just weren’t GOOD enough at it) for some time now. Sitting down with a guitar and playing music alone might at first seem like a lonely thing to do, but it can also be an incredibly nurturing thing too. Giving yourself the freedom to dream wildly and creatively is another way of honoring your own insides. It can be a game changer, it really can.  We now know that the very substance of our brains actually undergoes change as we begin to rewire the brain by developing different thought and feeling patterns.  We can see how different parts of the brain begin to light up when we move away from anxiety and uncertainty and allow ourselves to play and have fun. Play and fun are not mere idle activities; they are the very substance of what gives us long lives, healthy hearts, bodies and minds, and productive relationships.  When we are happy, when we are engaged, everything moves so much more smoothly.

As a result of all of this I remind myself that I need to stop what I am doing periodically and design new work.  Already I have begun some very different things.  Who knows if they will be of any interest.  When it comes to developing new work you do what you like and what winds up selling helps to support the business and more innovation.  Its not unlike a publishing company or movie producer that has blockbusters that help subsidize the less successful but just as worthy lesser known movies or books. I can remember making some of the ugliest suncatchers ever.  They were an experiment that went wrong.  I took them to a show and placed them in a basket on the floor.  They were the first things to sell and were gone within the first hour of the show.  So there is no way to gauge popularity; do what you like, make what you love and leave the rest to the fates.  Really.  If this is about pleasing other people, you are going to spend many sleepless hours trying to do just that when the only thing that ever made any sense or works is pleasing yourself.  I know maybe that sounds self centered, but you know, I have noticed that when I am happy, those around me feel that happiness and respond to it.  If I am not right then those around me are most certainly affected.  Instead of seeking to fill your cup from others, fill it yourself so that you are overflowing.  If we each did this we would each be in a lot better shape emotionally, and socially as a species.

This year I have embarked on some very divergent ideas creatively.  I wanted to do fish for my home.  I made some out of ceramic.  I wanted a garden because of how being amidst living things make me feel.  Last week I had a hummingbird buzz around my head as I stood stock still watching it move through the garden.  Bees and butterflies by the dozen are zooming in and out of this garden and it just lights me up to watch.  It lights me up to watch people enjoy making art, enjoying what they are doing.  I am making new work in glass, more different than anything I have ever done and yet its also some of the most satisfying so far.  I am breaking away from the vessel more and pushing blown forms into sculpture.  I am beginning to make water fountains; this was something I had NEVER considered but once I saw the results of what I and my students had created, I was hooked.  I wanted one in my yard, too. I wanted TWO.  One in the front, one in the back yard!  Here is glass and color and water all in one place creating sound and movement. Maybe its not highbrow, but I am a simple man.  Sometimes the sublime speaks to us through the ray of light peeking through the trees, or in the particular pthalo green we have on our pallet for the day.  In each moment, tucked between the obvious and the esoteric there is something and it is waiting quietly for us to recognize it.  When we do, it doesn’t require grandiose visions.  Its as simple as a smile, as grand as a waterfall.  It is in both, and it waits for all of us.  The gateway is in allowing ourselves, which is so very much like what making great art and invention is all about.